Supes asked to be honest with the public
|Westwood resident Eileen Spencer, a representative of a community bulletin board website, filed a complaint Tuesday, May 14 alleging the Lassen County Board of Supervisors violated the Brown Act, California’s Open Meeting Law, because the board said it was going to discuss the Dyer Mountain litigation in closed session, but her group believed the board actually was going to discuss the delinquent taxes owed by the proposed four-season resort’s developer. “This board must stop abusing the Brown Act with these types of deceptions,” Spencer said. “This is the public’s business.” County officials told Spencer despite her allegation, the board would be discussing the item it agendized during the closed session. The board had originally planned to discuss the item at its April 23 meeting, but that discussion was abandoned when the board discovered the agenda listed the wrong court case. Photo by Sam Williams|
May 21, 2013 — The Kan We Help Executive Committee, a group that hosts a website, filed a Brown Act (California’s Open Meeting Law) violation with the Lassen County Board of Supervisors during public comment before a closed session held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14.
According to the complaint, delivered by Westwood resident Eileen Spencer, the board planned to discuss the delinquent tax bill on the proposed Dyer Mountain resort property rather than the case listed on its agenda — a conference with legal counsel regarding existing litigation between the county and Mountain Meadows Conservancy, the Sierra Club and Sierra Watch, a case currently before the Third District Court of Appeal.
The board had planned to hold a closed session discussion on the matter April 23, but it had to abandon that discussion because the agenda cited the wrong court case.
“This board must stop abusing the Brown Act with these types of deceptions,” the group wrote. “This is the public’s business.”
According to the complaint, Richard Crabtree, former Lassen County counsel who also serves as the county’s attorney in the case, stated publicly before the April 23 closed session meeting the topic to be discussed at the meeting was the “upcoming and pressing delinquent tax bill on the Dyer Mountain property.”
Crabtree currently serves as the Red Bluff city manager.
Spencer acknowledged the board had the right to go into closed session as provided by the Brown Act, “but there’s nothing stopping (you) — except your honesty — of going into a closed session and discussing Herlong or what you’re going to do next Saturday or whatever. There’s nothing to prevent it because it’s private and it’s closed and it’s secure. The only thing that would expose that is if one of you experienced something that was different than what you told the public — say Mr. Pyle came out afterward and said, ‘I’m sorry, I’d like to mention we didn’t talk about Dyer Mountain at all, we talked about taxes.’ I don’t believe any of you would expose your roommates to that type of humility (sic), but it does happen … What you can do behind (closed) doors, you can talk about anything, and we’re never going to know about it. All I’m asking you to do is be honest with yourselves and the public, and if this does occur that one of you comes out after the meeting and says, ‘We didn’t even talk about that.’”
Spencer said she expected the board’s agenda would include an item regarding the Dyer Mountain taxes and that the issue would be discussed in open session.
“So, you do what you want,” Spencer said. “We’re filing a Brown Act (violation), and we’ll continue to file Brown Act violations until you start getting the message.”
“Are we going into closed session to talk about taxes?” Lassen County District 3 Supervisor Jim Chapman asked Crabtree and Lassen County Administrative Officer Martin Nichols.
They both said no.
“The purpose of the closed session that I’ve been asked to participate in is to discuss the status and strategy of what’s commonly referred to as the Dyer Mountain litigation,” Crabtree said. “At the last meeting, that case was incorrectly identified in the agenda. I have checked, and it is correctly identified on today’s agenda. Tax matters have nothing to do with the agenda item I’ve been asked to address.”
“I just want to make sure that’s in the record, since that’s the fundamental question asked at the podium,” Chapman said.
“Our tax man’s here, our treasurer’s here for that discussion,” Spencer said.
Chapman said Richard Egan, the county’s tax collector, also serves as the county’s representative to Trindell, its insurance carrier.
“I think he does have a role here from that perspective,” Chapman said.
Nichols then announced the board was going into closed session to discuss the existing litigation listed on the agenda, and no reportable action was expected, except perhaps giving direction to staff.
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